The title "Lamps of the Collection" emphasises what it is all about. This is the place to present my lamps, which have grown into a showcase collection over 10 years of collecting. That in itself is the main goal of this website; the real reason why I conceived this website. But I had also set myself another task: Not only did I want to present my lamps, but I also wanted to include the broadest possible accompanying information that would provide beginners to a kerosene/paraffin lamp collection with the basic knowledge they need. The fundamentally important information of a general nature, e.g. about the individual parts of the lamps, or about their care and repair, etc., I have summarised in individual, sometimes very extensive chapters, which are listed under the General Information. Under the generic term "Lamps of the Collection", I now want to further expand this informative character by not only presenting the lamps of my collection here, but also describing the stylistic features of the lamps from their countries of origin with their typical characteristics.
How should one divide a collection of 365 lamps into categories? Should one divide the lamps by their size, or by their materials, by their age? Or group them by their type of construction, by their use, by the type of shade or burner they have? I have decided on a rather difficult categorisation of my lamps, namely according to their country of origin. Difficult because it is often not possible to clearly assign them to a country. Only very rarely do lamps bear designations such as "Made in France" or markings of their builder such as "R. Ditmar Wien" or even lamp names such as "Lampe Veritas". Many of the lamps presented here are "no name" products at first sight. For inexperienced collectors and for laymen, they are initially a blank slate when it comes to finding out, if not the manufacturer, then at least the country of their origin.
A lamp bought at eBay Germany, for example, does not necessarily come from Germany. I have bought American lamps on eBay France and French lamps on eBay Great Britain; German lamps came to me from Italy, and Belgian lamps from France, and so on. The burner of a purchased lamp is relatively easy to identify. However, this does not mean that you have found the manufacturer of the lamp. For example, German burners have been exported in large numbers to France to be installed on French lamps. This does not automatically make these French lamps German products because the burner comes from Germany.
So how should one distinguish lamps according to their country of origin? First and foremost, it helps to study the typical and distinguishable features that have developed in a differentiated manner according to country. This is the main goal of this part of the website, besides presenting my collected lamps.
Development of Country-Specific Features
The widespread use of kerosene/paraffin lamps throughout the world as a relatively harmless, inexpensive source of light meant that there were a large number of lamp manufacturers in some countries. However, very many lamp manufacturers did not produce all the parts of the lamps themselves, but had them produced by other companies; and they assembled the lamp parts. There were companies that specialised in the production of the burners. Others made the base and column parts of the lamps by casting these parts from metal (very often zinc, also brass, more rarely iron, tin, copper and bronze). The glass parts, such as the glass chimney, the glass vase, the glass font, the glass shades, etc., were provided by special glass-blowing workshops. Ceramic manufacturers made and painted lamp parts from majolica. One can compare this industry with today's car industry, where many parts of a car are manufactured and supplied by different companies, to be assembled into a final product by the car manufacturer. However, there were a few lamp manufacturers who produced all or almost all parts of their lamps themselves. The Berlin company Wild & Wessel is a good example of this.
Despite the immense variety of shapes and materials, and despite the millions of kerosene/paraffin lamps spread all over the world as the best and easiest source of light to obtain, they have nevertheless developed country-specific characteristics. The typical representatives of German lamps, for example, differ quite strikingly from French and English lamps. This also applies to the typical representatives of other nations.
The individual peoples and the nations that have developed from them do indeed have certain characteristics, sometimes strongly pronounced, sometimes less emphasised, that differ from those of other nations. I am not referring to preconceived clichés about individual peoples, but to characteristics that have developed over centuries under the influence of the prevailing living conditions. One cannot simply lump the peoples of this earth together if one takes their habits, preferences and inclinations, but also their dislikes as a basis. They have developed more or less collective characteristics, some of them easily distinguishable from other peoples, which are also reflected in their artistic products. It is therefore no wonder that the lamps of France, for example, differ from British or German lamps in many cases. It is important to identify these differences as well as possible, because they may allow us to guess the country of origin of an otherwise unknown lamp.
The question of country-specific distinguishing features is important because one is very often faced with the task of finding out from which country a recently purchased lamp originates. Sometimes this question is very easy to answer, but often it is a difficult task to solve. Knowing the origin of the lamp also makes it easier to decide with which types of burners and shades an incompletely purchased lamp should be completed. Then it is good to be able to distinguish the style of a typical lamp of, for example, French origin from other types, so that the lamp can be completed in a stylish and harmonious way, for example by purchasing a beautifully painted tulip shade instead of a Vesta shade or a ball shade. However, I do not mean to impose the rule that all French lamps should have a tulip shade. There are, of course, French-made lamps that should have a different shade than the tulip shade I mentioned. You just have to identify them with a fair degree of certainty. In the end, it is also a matter of taste whether and how one completes a lamp. But the result should not be just any lamp with any shade, but should appear reasonably harmonious in appearance. So it is clear that we are now entering somewhat difficult terrain, because there are really no strictly defined rules for this kind of question.
Countries with Lamp Production
Looking at the decades from about 1860 to 1940 in the global market for kerosene/paraffin lamps, one quickly realises that only a few countries had a significant lamp industry. In Europe, these were (in alphabetical order) Austria-Hungary, Belgium, France, Germany and Great Britain. The USA was the only non-European country where kerosene/paraffin lamps were produced in large numbers and with high quality. All other European and overseas countries either had small, insignificant manufactories or obtained their lamps from the producer countries listed above.
In this part of the website, I will try to describe the typical characteristics of the lamps of these 6 countries, at least from my own point of view. To do this, I will proceed as follows for each country: In a first part, I will summarise the typical features of the lamps of this country that are easily recognisable to me (of course without claiming perfection and completeness). In further sub-chapters, I present my lamps from this country in collective photos to create an initial visual orientation. Here, the lamps of the collection are each named with their specific number and briefly described in their characteristics. Each lamp number is highlighted in colour and linked to the informative fact sheet of this lamp. A simple click on the lamp number takes you to its fact sheet, where you can find more information and all relevant data with detailed photos of the lamp.
My collection currently consists of the following lamps:
The big problem is that the German and Austrian lamps show a great similarity in design and style and very many German lamp producers have not marked their lamps with their marks or other logos that can be clearly assigned. A large proportion of the 60 lamps of unknown origin are probably from Germany, but proof is lacking. Some of the 30 lamps, which I have assigned to Germany rather according to my subjective style analysis, could also come from Austria-Hungary. The lamps from other countries, on the other hand, are much easier to recognise, as their country-specific style features are quite distinguishable.
Sculptural Lamps and Other Household Lamps
After I had assigned the 365 lamps to 6 producing countries and partly also identified them as lamps of unknown origin, I wanted to treat two types of lamps again in separate chapters, independent of their countries of origin.
I have presented the Sculptural Lamps in my collection again separately in a separate chapter of their own, because for me they represent a very interesting type of lamp that is at the top of the list from an artistic point of view. I consider them to be a genre of art in their own right, in which the artistic (namely the sculpture) has been combined with the useful (namely the lamp).
In the case of the Other Household Lamps, i.e. floor lamps, hanging lamps, piano lamps and student lamps, I wanted to explain the construction features of these lamps, which differ from the usual table lamps, in diagrams. For this purpose, these types of lamps also required an additional chapter of their own.
My Request to Collectors
If you discover a lamp whose classification was unclear to me or even wrong, please let me know so that I can add to it or correct it.